Too early. Too too early. I have to get up at quarter to five but end up waking before the alarm and I am out of bed before half four. This is insane. Human's were not meant to endure...  nice morning though. It is just dawning as I stumble around the flat getting breakfast number one of a long series.

Few people are about as I leave the house, not even the usual bus drivers from the garage. There are a few drunkatics shambling around and when I get to Archway, some shift workers. The tube is locked. Panic. My train is at 6.00 I read the timetable and there is just enough time to get to Kings Cross if the first tube train is bang on time.

The electronic lying machine at the bus stop said nothing about any 390s but I go over to wait there anyway. And a 390 comes along almost at once. I get to Kings Cross in time for a Cafe Nero capuccino once the coffee stall is open. I keep looking at the boards. My train is there but there is no platform. Well, it says platform 0.

As time goes on I start to worry. And finally go to look. The insane villains who run Kings Cross have snuck in a platform that is called 0 on the far side of the station to the Harry Potter one. My train is waiting there about to go. I jump on. Sit in my actual designated seat as it is a window seat on an empty table in a carriage with only two other people in it. And we are off.

Just after the first stop at Stevenage the train manager or guard or ticket inspector or whatever she is called comes round. I hand her my ticket.

"Would you like to buy another ticket?" She asks.

"Eh?" Why would I want to buy another ticket?

She points out that my ticket is for a train at 7.30

I realise what I have done. I just bought the tickets for the next leg to this one and that train leaves at 6.00. In my semi-conscious state I even read the seat reservation without noticing that the time was wrong. I try to explain but she is stern and unrelenting. Faced with a nearly empty train I get a bit snarly back, especially when she tells me that the next stop is Rotherham and that it will cost me about £120 to get off there and wait for an hour or so for my actual train. But there is something wrong with her card reading gadget so she goes off, saying she will be back.

The train rattles on through brilliant sunshine. An England now verdantly green. Eventually the woman comes back. I have calmed down now as I realise this is my fault not hers and that she must have heard just about every con going. She asks me a couple of questions with a shrewd expression. OK she says, you can get off at Rotherham. I sigh with relief and thank her. OK she says, as if I had just negotiated, you can stay on til Leeds.

Which is great. Sanity and flexibility win the day. Shortly afterwards the train stops at Peterborough. It doesn't actually stop at Rotherham at all. Strange.

The sun is already hot by the time I get off at Cononley. I miss the village again as my route is the other way from the station. Over the Aire I take the first footpath. I chose this route to avoid cows in case they are still bonkers, but the first field has a bunch.

On a second look they are bullocks and there is a guy in front of me with a dog. The bullocks look but don't move so I am reassured and take the path along the bank of the Aire, cross the A629 and join the Leeds and Liverpool canal by a memorial to a Polish air crew

The short walk into Skipton on the towpath is pleasant apart from the traffic noise, with rabbits abounding and even a frog swimming in the canal. Ducklings and cygnets are the main users here, with no boat traffic at all for this stretch.

Not much human activity at all, in fact,  until I come to the outskirts of Skipton where major works are going on, seemingly digging out a little basin from the bank.

Skipton is bustling. Market day. Well ready for a third breakfast I search for a small bakery, avoiding a brace of Greggs on the main street and eventually tracking down a local one. The market goers seem to be all elderly and white and all the accents I hear are Yorkshire. I stop for a very good capuccino in a cafe by the canal.

Then take the wrong canal branch as there is a little fork here, having to retrace my steps. This part of Skipton is even busier than the market. It is picturesque and humming with tourists, not unlike Haworth.

Back on the canal and on the way out I see evidence that Skipton is more diverse than the market had made it seem. I had passed an Asian guy sitting outside what looked like a residential home on the way in - on the way out I see a small mosque in a little street, and a woman in a burqua taking her shopping into a house. It seems a little strange as the centre of town had looked so monochrome. The mosque has a prominant notice warning about security measures.

I also pass a house with a sign telling me how far I was from Leeds and from Liverpool.

Out of town I get circled by particularly irate curlews as I trudge on to Gargrave.

After England's dismal showing against Algeria I have decided that I am glad I am walking today as they play the final group game against Slovenia. But as time goes on I start to wonder if I could get to a pub to watch it. Gargrave is going to be too early, but I start looking at the map for other options later on. 

At Gargrave I take a slight detour but don't really have the time or energy to look at the town, so go back to and cross over the canal where I briefly rejoin the Pennine Way.

The first stretch is a road walk but it is a lane so quiet that I don't mind. Then I take a right of way through a field. It is quite a steep hill and very hot in the relentless sun, but when I get to the top it is fantastic.

I am walking through lush grass and in front of me there the Yorkshire Dales are rising. The feeling of elation lasts all the way to the next field.

Because as I start to cross it so do a very large crowd of bullocks. And they are going at right angles to me. It is not that their demeanor is agressive but there are a hundred or so of them and they are moving fast, one or two breaking into a run. Others stop to stare at me and my nerve, fractured by the cow experiences of the last leg, crumbles. I happen to be by a stone wall enclosing a wood and I use this for cover, squeezing through a gap into the next field and walking through knee high grass to a road. It is easy to get over the fence as it is low but it is low because there is a three or four foot drop down to the road. I jump and my right knee immediately informs me that this was a terrible idea.

I limp up the the road and straight away I come across the bottom of the bullock field. They are drinking at a trough, looking as gentle and friendly as could be. Cursing the evil beasts I hobble off in search of a pub to watch the football.

The rejoined footpath takes me alongside the infant Aire and I see a flash of kingfisher and several grey wagtails as I limp along it. My knee is not forgiving me for that jump and it is really hot now. I am very grateful for my new, broad brimmed hat and the sun block.

At Aireton I have to scramble up a hill to avoid some cows with calves. I know, I know, I am getting a bit paranoid. And hobble into the villlage. There is no pub marked on the map but it is substantial so I have hopes.

There is no pub. Nor shop. There is, however, a postman emptying a pillar box and he has the radio on. One nil to England, he informs me, Defoe scoring. No pub here but further on there are.

So I hobble off even more urgently, back along the riverside.

 Soon I am back in a classic cow trap. There is a bull snoozing away. Cows with calves scattered around. One on the bank squarely in my way and not looking like she wants to give way. There is even one standing, horse-like in the river.

Weighing my options I decide that the bull looks the least annoyed about my presence. There is not enough gap between him and the cow on the path and that would mean going between her and a calf that might belong to her so I go the long way round and leave as much distance as I can between that cow and another group with calves. The bull ignores me completely. Phew.

I hobble on and into Kikby Malham. The second half must be nearly starting and I limp along to the pub. There are signs out advertising food and a big England banner on the wall opposite the pub. Great!

Only the pub is shut. I can't quite believe it. It surely isn't a lock in as I cannot hear any cheering (or groaning). No, despite the signs it seems to be shut. Insanity!

So off I go, sticking to the road, on to Malham itself. I crest a hill and can see something strange, too far to make out details but I guess that it must be Malham Cove. At least the pub I am staying at is the first one that I come to. And the football is on.  Unfortunatley the bar is packed and the best I can do is to get a distorted side view of the last twenty minutes of desultory play.

Once it is over, a limp win for England, more a relief than a joy, I get my room and have a bath. And later I take a walk around Malham which is a pretty wee place.

As I go back I see a young woman taking her goats for a walk. "Nice goats!" I call, but she ignores me.

Maybe I should have asked permission before taking the photograph!



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